Welcome everyone to the first version of what will hopefully become a weekly home for casual baseball bettors or even baseball fans who don't want to gamble but just enjoy reading picks for Friday night. The idea is a fan has gone through a long week at work and is looking forward to taking in some baseball on Friday night, whether after Happy Hour, a family dinner, whatever one desires. Gamble on the games or just follow along the picks. Again, whatever you desire. We're all-inclusive here on interest levels.
For this week's lesson -- I won't necessarily always have a lesson here -- sometimes the best bets are the ones you don't make. Yes, it's an ages-old and probably tired, to some, cliché. And yet, it happened to me just two days ago.
It was a bit after noon on Wednesday. There were a lot of day games with not much at night. I felt like getting in a little action and started to run through the later games. I zeroed in on two.
The Yankees had already blown the Orioles out twice, they are a much better team and the run line only favored by the Yankees by 1.5 (as it does nearly every baseball game). Those who read my " " column in the playoffs know that "stick with what works" is one of my mottos. Why not just go to the well again with the Yankees? The best answer I have is that I just didn't feel right betting on a third-straight multiple-run win by one team over another. I was just about to click and just kind of shook my head and decided against it.
Orioles 4, Yankees 3
Hey, not losing is fine!
I also honed in on the Diamondbacks-Rockies in Coors Field because, well, looking at the over in Coors always intrigues me. The total was 11.5. I have faith in Madison Bumgarner coughing up runs these days and neither pitching staff looks imposing. I had tabs open in my browser for Bumgarner's Coors stats (not good; especially bad in 2018-19) and Rockies' starter Antonio Senzatela's career home splits (bad). Again, I was about to bet, but I just didn't feel good about it. I think it was because both teams are probably pretty bad and I'd be trusting both offenses to do something. Even in Coors, something didn't feel right. So I bailed. The Rockies did their part on the over. The D-Backs did not.
Rockies 8, D-Backs 0
Yes, I dodged two bullets.
I ended up making zero bets on the day, but I also didn't lose any. Nothing felt right, so there's no reason to force it. It actually, in a way, feels like a win that I didn't force it.
And now, it's time to keep that and all our other lessons in mind while also looking to get this new column off to a rousing start.
All lines are courtesy of William Hill Sportsbook And as always, best of fortune to our gambling friends.
The Braves just went through a road trip where they couldn't generate anything on offense in being swept in Philadelphia before having to sit out Monday while the Nationals ramped things back up from a COVID-related shutdown. They then hit four home runs off Max Scherzer and still found a way to lose before sweeping a doubleheader (remember, only seven innings each!) on Wednesday. During this time, their home stadium lost the All-Star Game and they had to deal with off-the-field questions while trying to play a real baseball season after the pandemic-affected 2020.
They return home Friday and will have plenty of adrenaline on their own, not to mention the little extra juice the amp-up Atlanta-area fans will provide.
Now, Phillies co-ace Zack Wheeler has owned them the last three times he saw them, including less than a week ago. That could scare some people off. For those people I'll offer this:
- The Braves actually crushed Wheeler in 2019 (6.26 ERA in four starts), when he pitched for the Mets.
- The more times a team sees a pitcher in the short term, generally speaking, the better chance they have to get to him. It's not a hard-and-fast rule, but familiarity is a hitter advantage.
- The Braves are far too good an offensive team to carry a .170/.234/.319 line, even in a six-game sample.
- Freddie Freeman in 52 career plate appearances has hit .447/.577/.711 against Wheeler. Ronald Acuna has a career .636 slugging against him in 22 at-bats (to be fair, Marcell Ozuna, Ozzie Albies and Dansby Swanson all have 20+ plate appearances and have been terrible; so refer to the second bullet point here).
As I'll always acknowledge here, there's some level of gut feeling involved, too. It's the Braves' home opener, I still think they are the better team and they are 2-4 while the Phillies are 5-1.
Feels like a Braves' win, no? Pick: Braves to win (-125)
Sometimes there's an evening out and sometimes we're just going to stick with what works. For whatever reason, the Astros appear to own the A's this season. If the A's were still winless I'd be staying away, but they got a W against the Dodgers on Wednesday, so I think we're clear of the law of averages here. In the five games between these two teams so far this season, the Astros have outscored the A's 41-9.
The A's send lefty Sean Manaea to the hill and the Astros crushed him last time and have worn lefties out all year. The Astros send the better pitcher, Lance McCullers, to the mound and he was good against the A's last time out. He's also simply the better pitcher while the Astros have the better lineup and bullpen.
Also, have you watched the Astros at all? They seem to have that cocky (this is good in sports when it's regarding confidence, in case anyone thinks I'm insulting them) swagger back. Instead of last season where it seemed like during the regular season they were on the defensive and even a bit apologetic. It's like the boos from the Oakland fans to start the season fed them the villain pills they needed.
This matchup just seems so uneven right now that I feel confident in the Astros, again, by multiple runs until we're shown something otherwise.
I don't think the A's are the worst team in the league or anything -- and their schedule out of the gate here did them no favors at all -- but we're sticking with picking against them right now. Anyone who has been doing so daily this season has been making a fortune and I don't see reason to change course now.
Stick with what works! Pick: Astros to win (-1.5)
Reds at Diamondbacks, 9:40 p.m. ET
TV: Reds (Bally Sports Ohio); D-Backs (Bally Sports Arizona); MLB.TV
Pitching matchup: Tyler Mahle (1-0, 3.50 ERA) vs. Taylor Widener (1-0, 0.00 ERA)
The under? With the Reds?
The Reds lead the majors in several major offensive categories. They've scored at least nine runs on their own four times out of six games. In one game, there were eight total runs scored, the other five of their games breezed past nine runs total.
We've got a few things working. Similar to the Braves' pick above but in the opposite direction, the Reds are slashing .316/.400/.602 right now. They also just got fat off the hapless Pirates' pitching staff. Great American Ball Park is a very hitter-friendly yard and we know every team, generally, hits better at home. This marks the Reds' first road game and Chase Field players pitcher-friendly when it comes to the longball.
Also, D-Backs' starter Taylor Widener threw six scoreless innings against the Padres last time out. The Reds have zero players who have ever faced Widener at the big-league level. Again, this is the inverse of the Braves vs. Wheeler discussion from above. The Reds don't know anything about Widener from the inside-the-box perspective.
In fact, if I had to take a winner I'd go with the Reds. I just think it'll be more a traditional baseball game than the beer-league softball routs they've been treating us to lately. We might have to sweat this one out, too, but we'll make it. Even something like 5-2 Reds gives us plenty of breathing room.
If you disagree and like the Reds, grab that pick. They'll probably win and the -125 money line isn't too bad. Pick: Under 9.0